What’s In An Offering?

Preference is totally okay. We all have our favorites.

I don’t believe there’s anything wrong with it. But we must be careful not to qualify or disqualify an expression of worship based on our likes or dislikes. An expression of worship to the Living God found in the mountains of Tibet will likely sound quite different than the heart of worship found in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Kentucky.

Which one is more holy? Which one is more appropriate? Who decides?

It’s pretty easy for us to want to step into the role of quality control for God…

It’s pretty easy for us to want to step into the role of quality control for God and choose for Him what (we believe) He deserves. When it doesn’t look, feel, sound or taste like what we’re used to, what we grew up with, or maybe just haven’t seen before, we reflexively categorize it as potentially “hazardous” to God’s health. So we position ourselves against it.

I used to be a pro at this. I mean, I was good! As a worship leader, clearly no one knew or loved God like I did, so I was perfect for the job. “I was made for this!”

Pretty much any style I heard for the first time was wrong. But before long, I’d get used to it, and it became more acceptable – in my eyes – as worship. Funny how that worked.

Years ago, I saw a rock band lead worship. I know, oxymoron. Bear with me. Not just a rock band but lights, smoke and a wardrobe change to boot! But somehow, unavoidably clear, their heart for God and the honoring of His Glory was blindingly evident. God was thick in the room. And so was their attention to Him. They didn’t accidentally stumble into His secret place. They were experienced in finding Him and took us along.

I was dumbfounded. I had somehow acquired the philosophy that worship – true worship – required an expression stripped of creativity, it must be feeble – as if it needed to be wearing sailcloth and an ash hat.

But this…this was beautiful! Loud! Bright and colorful! It blew away my conceptions, and I was left confused. I thought I had it figured out! “How could I, I of all people, be wrong!?! I’m a disciple of Christ, for crying out loud!”

In Matthew 26, the disciples were ticked off over an irreverent and wasteful “display” given to Jesus. Some woman waltzed in off the street and had the nerve to break a jar of crazy expensive perfume and wash His feet with it! Can you believe it!?! The NERVE! It smelled like a Mary Kay factory exploded! And did she give any concern for my sensitive allergies!?! NO! Selfish woman!

Jesus disagreed.

Why? Because even though her display of affection had never been seen before, the adoration in her heart had. It was familiar to Him, and He responded. She, in her limited but life-changing history with the Savior, dared risk showing thankful love to Him in the only way her heart could imagine. Take the most valuable thing in her possession and, without hesitation, give it. All of it. Her heart spilled out the affection and gratitude that was unlocked by the transforming encounter she had previously experienced.

But everyone else only saw the extremities of the gift, and it was unanimous: they disapproved. The ones closest to Jesus missed it. Perhaps they confused their proximity to Him for nearness.

The counterfeit of discernment is suspicion.

Just like them, I think we often fall prey to this same mistake. The counterfeit of discernment is suspicion, and suspicion alienates and discriminates. It judges out of religion and not relationship. A religious spirit prefers a checklist of rules, because it’s easier to judge a man’s actions than a man’s heart. And like Cain, despises the extravagant offerings of Abel, because passionate obedience is always greater than dutiful sacrifice.

1 Samuel 16:7 “For the Lord sees not as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

When you define worship by its heart and not its appearance, you will find it exceedingly difficult to draw boundaries around what is acceptable.

My daughter doesn’t consider procedure when bringing me affection. She’ll run through the middle of the room in front of everyone to bring me a gift. The quality of her gift isn’t based on her skill with a crayon or the beauty of the rocks she’s just gathered. It’s found in her heart. The desire to merely interact with me, be near to me, bring me something that we can share a moment over. And that’s all I want! I have never, nor will I ever, tell her, “What is this? This isn’t a drawing of us and sunshine! It’s crude! Go back and try harder.” No! Whatever gift she brings me, because I know she adores me, will be met with open arms and grin from ear to ear.

In worship, I still have my favorites, but I’ve learned to not disqualify another’s offering based on my taste. I’m learning to celebrate alongside their heart.

Because the fact is, the Lord is endlessly worthy of praise from every nation, tongue, style and genre, and I’ll not restrict what He sees fit.

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Gabriel Allred leads worship at Christ for The Nations Institute in Dallas, Texas and also at Trinity Church in Cedar Hill, Texas.

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